Aquinas, Quanta & Angels; Darwin, Wallace & Evolution

Rupert Sheldrake posits that if one substitutes the word quanta for “angels,” Aquinas’s angelology addresses many of the same questions that today’s quantum physics asks. “When Aquinas discusses how angels move from place to place, his reasoning has extraordinary parallels to both quantum and relativity theories.”

“Photon” Artist’s rendering by WAKAN ista on Flickr.

The issues that Aquinas deals with in relation to the movement of angels—continuity, discontinuity, action in place—are similar to the discussion about the movement of photons and other quantum particles in quantum theory. Writes Sheldrake: 

Part of my interest in Aquinas’s work on angels was awakened precisely by seeing these parallels. I think the parallels arise because he’s dealing with the same question: How can something nonmaterial and indivisible move and act on bodies located in particular places?  

Yet angels are distinguished from quanta insofar as they employ conscious choice in their movement per Aquinas.

In discussing angels and instantaneous movement, Sheldrake cites Aquinas who says: “The beginning is in one instant and the end in another between these there is no time at all.”  

Sheldrake comments: “Let us say then that [a photon’s] movement is in time, but not in the way that bodily movements are.” Photons, like angels, can be said to exist in an eternal now where one does not grow old.

“Light Being at the Power Point, Findhorn, Scotland.” Photo by Phila Hoopes.

A photon can be in one place at one instant, as when light leaves the sun and another place at another instant as when the flight from the sun hits something on the earth and lights it up about eight minutes later. But from the point of view of the photon itself, no time elapses. And the photon does not age in the process.

Aquinas calls angels “beings of light.” Says Sheldrake: “It is not just a coincidence that we find remarkable parallels today between angels and the nature of light.” Aquinas reminds us that angels are cosmic beings who assist with the work of the unfolding and evolving universe. Angels are not just about guarding individuals but are instrumental in “governing the universe.”

Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution along with another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, and they presented their findings back-to-back at the Linnean Society of London on July 1, 1858. They were very close, but eventually separated around the question of angels.

Wallace was convinced that guiding intelligences or angels would be necessary to explain the developments of the universe, and that natural selection did not fully account for the immense creativity in nature that occurred over a very limited time period. Darwin’s position, however, resulted in “a gloomy materialism which now pervades the thinking of neo-Darwinism,” including the notion that “the universe has no meaning or purpose,” comments Sheldrake.

Adapted from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels, pp. 23, 104-106, 24.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “The Annunciation” by Emily Barney is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Creative Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you find yourself on Darwin’s side or Wallace’s side when you consider each one’s interpretation of evolution?  What difference does it make?

Recommended Reading

The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet
By Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

When was the last time a scientist and a theologian discussed angels together? What are angels? Many people believe in angels, but few can define these enigmatic spirits. Now visionary theologian Matthew Fox and acclaimed biologist Rupert Sheldrake—pioneers in modern religious thinking and scientific theory—launch a groundbreaking exploration into the ancient concept of the angel and restore dignity, meaning, and joy to our time-honored belief in these heavenly beings.

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14 thoughts on “Aquinas, Quanta & Angels; Darwin, Wallace & Evolution”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, I write today concerning our Queries for Contemplation which are: “Do you find yourself on Darwin’s side or Wallace’s side when you consider each one’s interpretation of evolution?” First of all, when one considers these two pioneers in the science of evolution, we have to admit a kind of rivalry, where one was racing the other to be the one to announce the theory of evolution to the world. While they both presented their theories on the same occasion, it was Darwin, who obviously won the day. And this reminds me of back in Isaac Newton’s day, when he “created” Calculus, but so did Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, totally independent of each other! Newton however won the day. One of the glaring differences between Wallace and Darwin, was Wallace’s conviction that “guiding intelligences” or angels would be necessary to explain the developments of the universe, and that natural selection did not fully account for the immense creativity in nature that occurred over a very limited time period. Darwin’s position, however, resulted in “a gloomy materialism which now pervades the thinking of neo-Darwinians,” including the notion that “the universe has no meaning or purpose,” comments Sheldrake.
    “What difference does it make?” Wallace’s view lends itself to the idea of what is called, “Intelligent Design,” and a belief in angels, while Darwinians today offer a materialistic and Godless evolution.

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    Thank you Richard for adding the conjunction between Newton and Leibniz, which I wasn’t aware of. Darwin and Newton appear to be reductionist while Wallace and Leibniz expand the data to include the role of consciousness and ‘intelligent design’. Quantum explorations taught us that humans are not just ‘observers. of creation but are also ‘participators’ in creation, which was an astonishing breakthrough. As participators we make choices about physical options, creative options and moral options.
    As for angels, I recall an instance when I found myself trapped in danger but wasn’t sure if I was over reacting, plus there was no easy way out of the situation. Because of the circumstances, I was hesitant to run, but then my whole body registered the alarm physically, a kind of warning simmering energy, and actually made me run. Thankfully the exit door I thought would be locked was in fact open. Perhaps the energy was my guardian angel.

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    Jeanette Metler

    Consciousness is the energy of light that becomes life, and gives life. This conscious energy of light moves through life in a constant and continuous cycle. The seven dimensions of reality, refer to the seven levels of existence and the potential levels of conscious awareness of that existence, which are also related to the seven chakras. The following seven steps, describe how this conscious energy moves through life, continously giving life.

    First Dimension is Focus… focusing our consciousness on a particular intention.
    Second Dimension is Substance… what we have consciously given attention to, appears within space. There is no definition, give away or purpose at this point. It is the raw material, the raw energy of consciousness, out of which this consciousness co-creates. Darwin I believe was speaking of this.
    Third Dimension is Form… this occurs when consciousness gives definition and purpose to the focused substance of energy. At this point, impact is made… the consciousness of the soul takes on form. Wallace I believe was speaking of this.
    Fourth Dimension is Determination… it’s our individual free will choice to determine what we will do with this conscious energy and the impacts of this. This impact on life, will be either positive or negative, creative or destructive. Our challenge now is to determine what to do with this conscious energy. Several mystics Mathew references, I believe speak of this.
    Fifth Dimension is Understanding… which occurs when there is no limitation between you, your soul self and the conscious energy of light, that gives life. If at the point of determination you do not have acceptance and tolerance of the impacts of free will conscious choices of each soul… you get into judgment or comparison… and you will not have a true understanding of unlimited multiple viewing points of conscious awareness and the cross-correlations and the integration of the whole. Jesus understood this, and I believe taught this to others.
    Sixth Dimension is Imagination… with true understanding in place, you now co-create with empowerment as “I, the Magi”, within your own sacred soul circle of empowerment. At this step of consciousness, you must be willing to recognize all the faces of whatever is reflected to you, as apart of you. This dimension is the place of the ancestors. Here we consciously understand our interconnections, inter-relationships, and inter-dependence… that we have danced either now, in the past or will in the future… all the faces of these reflections within the all and the everything of creation. Imagination is the conscious extension of who we are, our true soul sense of self, as spirit, whom is consciously able to move both inside and outside of time and space. Jesus I believe, ushered in this new level of consciousness… impregnating, seeding the collective soul consciousness of humanity with a new conscious awareness of the co-creative power of our soul/spirits imagination.
    Seven Dimension is Freedom… which is consciously carrying light, which gives life. It is the dream, our acceptance of the process of life, our desire to live consciously, as an autonomous, authentic reflection, expression and manifestation of this energy of light, that gives life. This is the unique gift of our true soul self, our true divine sacred self, giving life, reflecting, expressing and manifesting its giveaway to the whole. In its finest form, this is the power of resurrection… the resurrection of our divinity within our humanity. Jesus became the full measure of this conscious energy… the Chirst Light… reflecting, expressing and manifesting this divinity within his humanity.

    Once any light soul/spirit of consciousness has processed through and reached the seventh step of Freedom, it will naturally evolve into a new Pattern, which will need Chaos, to move it into Completion.

    Completion is the step which will spin any process into its next evolutionary cycle.
    Pattern is the summation of the first seven steps.
    Chaos is the implosion and explosion of breath… which is about learning to ride the chaotic wave of the unfolding, evolving and emerging movement of the conscious energy of light, that gives life… and choreographing and designing this movement in absolute male/female balance.
    Completion, sometimes called Solution… is all measures of intellect, all states of consciousness within the all and the everything of creation… co-creating life harmoniously together, into all forms of all things. Thus the step of completion is both the end and the beginning… the Alpha and the Omega – a new evolutionary cycle of conscious energy and the light of this, unfolding and emerging as one cycle completes itself.

    This is the Law of All Energy in Movement… the Freedom Streams of Universal Consciousness, (taught to me by my teachers, within my apprenticeship in Shamanic Spirituality.) This is the Law, which I believe Christ fulfilled.

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    Thank you, Jeanette. Your comments have helped me to understand the beauty of my own soul growth.

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    Norma Lindbloom

    Wow! Thank you Jeanette. Thank you all for your work on expounding on the daily meditations.

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    Science makes its bread and butter by denying there is any final causation, and denying that there are realms of being and ways of knowing (transrational) that it can’t get at by its methods. As such, faithful to its ‘sacred’ trinity (idols) of number, quantity, and measurement, it arrogantly presupposes an autonomy of mankind from any higher forces. As for Darwin, few have problems with his notion that higher forms of life came after simpler forms, even Genesis says as much. But evolution also refers to a theory that claims higher, more complex forms came OUT of those simpler forms and RANDOMLY. Hold your horses. In the absence of fossilized proof of that (a inviolate scientific standard), such is a suspect jump in logic, something that even scientists must blush embarrassingly about, done-in by their own requirements for empirical rigor, caught in self-fulfilling prophecies. Besides, the theory leaves out considering (a) the distinct possibility that causation throughout the created order could be downward, from superior to inferior, from what is more to what is less, and (b) while higher forms contain the lower, something about the higher can indeed be learned from studying the lower, everything, that is, EXCEPT THAT WHICH MAKES IT HIGHER. So to study animals in the hope this will contribute to understanding the complexity of humans is like studying physics in hopes of learning biology. Science’s fundamental evil is its incapacity to see the whole. By studying the provrrnial tree or wave, it misses the forest or ocean. Divine life (Spirit) is timeless, implanted (incarnated) in things giving them life and form, becoming conscious of itself in humans. Tell me, how does something timeless (eternally changeless) “evolve?,” save perhaps in human consciousness, in which case it’s best termed a “breakthrough” in awareness of same, not an evolution of itself. How does something fixed and changeless evolve? Such is a contradiction in terms. To reinterpret Christ and creation cosmically, there’s a need for new images and icons of God, along with identifying this “changeless substance” in which “all things consist and hold together” (Col. 1:17). The quest for a practically engaged spirituality must be appropriate to the needs of the contemporary world. That can only be done by stretching the boundaries of both science and theology toward naming their common universal element in the divine. That said, I fall in with Wallace over Darwin, and in dabbling with photons, see Sheldrake as on the right track.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, I agree with you on a major point today! You write: “Science makes its bread and butter by denying there is any final causation, and denying that there are realms of being and ways of knowing (transrational) that it can’t get at by its methods. As such, faithful to its ‘sacred’ trinity (idols) of number, quantity, and measurement, it arrogantly presupposes an autonomy of mankind from any higher forces.” And I definitely agree with this. My experience with scientists is that because the things of the Spirit cannot be quantified by “number, quantity, and measurement” they see the things of the Spirit as being non-sense and non-existent.

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    Matthew, your DM and questions today about spirit beings/Angels and their analogies to photons from modern quantum physics/science can also raise the deeper question whether God is A Personal Loving Intelligent Source/Creator or, as many scientists believe, is the Cosmos mainly made up of extremely complex yet regulated impersonal energies and forces that we’re still exploring and comprehending. This question leads to other related deeper questions posed by not only modern scientists, but philosophers and intellectuals in human history, such as the meaning and purpose of humanity and the Universe/Cosmos. For many mystics, shamans, and saints throughout human history to the present times, their deep mystical experiences reveal a Loving Personal Wisdom Creator/Consciousness who is Immanent and Transcendent (Mysterious) with-in All ongoing co-Creation~Evolution of our multiverse Cosmos, including All of our spiritual multidimensions, loving intelligent spirit beings/Saints, and our own loving conscious eternal souls created with free will. This means that on our own human spiritual journeys, we can choose to have faith/trust or not… My personal faith/prayer is one of a Personal Wisdom Creator~Source of Loving Diverse Oneness / Beloved Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

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    I really find it fascinating that quanta and angels are perhaps one and the same. I’ve said for years that I have three defending angels. I feel privileged; others regard me with skepticism. But, this doesn’t phase me much. I know a good thing when I have experienced it. Thanks for the presentation.

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